By Jeremy McDonald
CORVALLIS, Ore.– The last out can be the hardest out to get.
And for North Salem, they were one pitch away with two outs on Sprague up 5-0 Tuesday to seal up their fourth win of the season.
But, as the Olympians showed in their 6-5 comeback win in nine innings over the Vikings, that last stand faced with their final strike in the game is the hardest one to get. Kyle Hinchcliff, faced with a 2-2 count, fought off the third out for a single to extend the inning.
Sprague’s Brock McMullen admits that they were down, but as they slowly loaded up the bases and pressured North Salem’s Zach Goodwin, Will Tsukamaki and the Viking defense to get that final out.
“We were all like, ‘might as well stay up and keep our energy high for the last guy’ and it just kept on rolling,” said McMullen. “The more that guys got on, the more excited we got and the more pressure that we put on the pitcher which led to us scoring five runs with two outs.”
Of their five runs, two came from bases-loaded walks, a hit-batter and a Michael Soper and Brett Hassoun RBI singles to tie up the game at five before Tsukamaki struck out Tyler Kalar to end the inning.
Sprague kept changing up the pitchers ever so often that it threw the consistency of the Vikings hitters off, causing North Salem to strand 10 batters as they went in order in the seventh inning with the game knotted up at five apiece.
“It was pretty frustrating. In the second inning I think, we had bases loaded with one out and we just…people struck out and we did that multiple times, it’s not good. We need to learn how to hit the ball,” said the Viks Keegan Wafer. “We missed too many first ball fastball, me personally. We need to hop on those fast balls.”
North Salem collected 10 hits with catcher Brian Bernal collecting three of them and Dylan Ebbs collecting another two. Soper had a team-high three hits for the Olys with McMullen and Cole Herschbach each adding two each in Sprague’s 12-hit offensive output.
Neither team could break the 5-5 stalemate until Soper hit a two-out Triple to set-up McMullen’s RBI Double to hand Sprague the go-ahead lead at 6-5 in the top half of the ninth inning.
“It felt good. I mean I could hear that everyone was excited in the dugout and I was excited, the fans were excited. It felt good to hit that,” said McMullen of the go-ahead hit.
Jackson Hildebrand, who pitched the final four innings of the game, had continued his dominance on the bump by holding North from tying the game up in the bottom half of the ninth to seal the win Tuesday night.
“It was amazing. Everyone was making their plays,” said Hildebrand. “I just had to throw strikes and get ground-balls.”
Sprague host Wilson Friday while the Vikings look to rebound Thursday on the road at West Salem after fighting to the final play of the game.
“It really showed how much we cared, we want to get back but it didn’t get done. We just got to do a better job. We just got to comeback and play all seven innings,” said Bernal.